Q: I requested my vacation six months in advance to take two weeks off for my family reunion. We have a large immediate and extended family who all live in several states across the country, so we rarely get to see one another. We have been meeting yearly to stay connected, and it's a blast for all of us. My boss has approved it in the past and also approved it this time, as he knows many families that celebrate with similar annual traditions.
We can get better deals by reserving and paying in advance for hotels, our share for the venue and catering, and car rentals. This takes much coordination; my parents both come from large families, and all their children have children. A month before I was to leave for the vacation, management told my boss to cancel all vacations for the next three to four months because the company hadn't met its projections.
This knee-jerk type of punishment reminded me of bad elementary school teachers who punished the class for one child's actions. Using the excuse of low profits angered me because management seems to live a high life.
Seeing my entire family means a lot to me, and they are not going to change their vacation time just because I can't make it. I'm upset and not sure how I should tell my boss I'm going no matter what; I obviously don't want to get fired, but I have waited and looked forward to this all year. I also wonder if I should start looking for another job if the company is doing as poorly as it says.
A: It sounds like your company has not ever before experienced this level of financial decline. It's possible the situation is worse than the announcement leads employees to believe. It's also possible the person in charge of employee alerts has poor written communication skills. (Remember, not all employees are good in their positions.)
Make an appointment to meet privately with your boss to explain the importance of this family reunion, but first, clear the anger out from your attitude. A respectable professional would never issue an ultimatum to a boss. That type of behavior ranks low on emotional maturity and would change anyone's positive thoughts about you. You need your boss's recommendation for a new job, and if you deliver an ultimatum about going on a vacation, your boss is entitled to pass this on to prospective employers. To a person who doesn't know the entire situation, most companies would steer clear of hiring you.
Before speaking to your boss, review articles on the new, positive methods of negotiation. The old-time negative model of opposing parties won't yield positive results. The new method is a business partner's approach of honest, open and sincere communication that shows you are interested in creating a win for both you and your company. Think about the information you'd like to present, and explain your viewpoint in a mature and reserved manner. A positive approach will win your boss's favor, even if he can't exempt you from the new rule.
It's also good to check the employee handbook for a reimbursement policy and vacation cancellation procedures. Some companies, even without a reimbursement policy, will reimburse employees for losses the company causes by canceling previously approved vacations. Receiving reimbursement may not be your goal, especially since you look forward to this reunion every year, but sometimes, you have to negotiate with yourself about what you are willing to give up.
A positive discussion with your boss might convince him that your annual family reunion vacation is unique compared with the vacations other employees wish to take during the same period. Whatever the result, if you are happy with your job, this one year may have to be your year of compromise. Hopefully, it will result in a better position for you, either with your current employer or with a new one when he or she hears how you gracefully canceled a long-awaited vacation due to the company's demand.
Email career and life coach: [email protected] with your workplace problems and issues. Ms. Novak responds to all emails. For more information, visit www.lindseynovak.com, and for past columns, see www.creators.com/read/At-Work-Lindsey-Novak.
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